Overcrowded schools have become a topic of discussion for Denison and voters could soon be asked to decide the future of at least two campuses in an upcoming election.
The Denison Independent School District School Board is looking to vote to call an election at its July 30 meeting that would ask voters to decide a $22 million dollar bond issue to add 10 additional classrooms to Hyde Park and Mayes Elementary Schools each.
Hyde Park Parent Teacher Organization President Jill Smith raised concerns following a Denison Independent School District school board study session to discuss the possible future expansion and what it could mean for future district growth.
She asked if there was anything else the district could do to get the voters on board with the bond, and if there were other areas in the secondary schools the district could look at to alleviate some of the pressure. She said district is getting a lot of feedback on social media and her group has been utilizing its Facebook page to get the word out about the potential bond election.
DISD Superintendent Henry Scott responded to her comments and said the district would be putting additional information out to the public in the near future. Until then, DISD Building and Facilities Committee Chairman Thomas A. Redwine has responded to public comments and explained the district’s proposal to expand two of the its campuses.
Redwine said the building and facilities committee is made up of 40 individuals from all over the district, and it was a unanimous decision to present this plan to the school board for consideration.
This plan calls for completely renovating significant portions of the two campuses in question. The campuses are both near full capacity with growth projected to continue in the near future.
“Based on our budget, and the uproar over closing one campus, we feel like coming up with this solution is in the best interest in the school district for the next nine or so years,” Redwine said. “We feel like adding onto these two schools and re-balancing some of the student population is in the best interest until we can get to the point where our tax base has increased to build a new school.”
Redwine also said the committee has looked extensively for a parcel of land that would meet the district’s needs to build a campus. The land would need to be at least 15 acres, and currently, he said there are not many places that meet that requirement.
The Lamar Elementary campus was another site that came into question. That campus is at 99 percent capacity, and the committee’s plan as presented would redraw the attendance zones to move some students from that campus over to Terrell Elementary, a campus with a declining population, Redwine said.
The district will have to revisit the plan in 6-8 years no matter what solution is presented to the voters, officials said. This is partially because the district is expected to shut down Sam Houston Elementary School in the near future. That campus is expected to be re-purposed at some point, but Redwine said the committee did not believe the voters would support building a new campus and shutting down Sam Houston at the same time, a move Henry Scott said would be necessary due to budget reasons.
If the bond is approved, Redwine said the district will still most likely need to install portable buildings on one or more campus during the interim as the renovations of the two campuses takes place, and he believes the schools will be able to hold steady for the next two years while the new classrooms are added.
Redwine said there needs to be a coalition of public supporters to get the word out on why this is the best solution, and he said it should be telling that 40-member committee voted unanimously to present this plan despite some reservations.
What do you think about the proposed bond and school expansion? Let Denison area reporter Richard A. Todd know at RTodd@HeraldDemocrat.com.